Whenever you see a new horror trailer, it captivates you almost immediately. Everyone in the room seems to go completely still trying to unpack what is being revealed. The Barbarian trailer gives away almost nothing. In the modern era where trailers reveal every single detail of the movie, it was refreshing to finally see a truly ominous trailer. If you believe you know what the movie is going to be about, believe me, you’re wrong.
Barbarian is written and directed by Zach Cregger, starring Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgard, and Justin Long. The movie follows Tess (Campbell), a young woman traveling into Detroit for a job interview, and Keith (Skarsgaard), a mysterious man who is in town to scout for his community organization. Trouble arrives when the AirBNB that Tess books has mistakenly been double booked by Keith, the two discover dark secrets and mysterious tunnels that run underneath the house. That is about the extent of the information the trailers reveal and it is almost impossible to further elaborate on the story without spoilers. Barbarian is a movie you need to know as little about as possible before viewing. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading and come back when you’re done with it.
There is something special about watching a scary movie that has genuine surprises and shock factor. Barbarian does a tremendous job of hiding its true storyline through the first 30 minutes of runtime and in the trailers. Campbell, Skarsgaard, and Long all do a great job in their respective roles, while Cregger does a nice job of setting up the story. Viewers will be completely immersed and on the edge of their seats waiting for the plot to unravel. Even though the movie is a fun watch, it still has its flaws. Unfortunately by the end of the movie, you are left with more questions than answers. The tone switch after the first 30 minutes of the movie may be enough to lose some viewers and ladder half of the movie falls short of capitalizing on the amazing set-up established in the first act. Once the movie settles into its identity and you get through the initial shock, some plot holes begin to shine through. The second act ultimately takes the breath out of the original build up and substitutes for a more comedic tone and plenty of classic poor horror movie decisions made by the characters. The less thought given trying to make sense of the plot, the better. Despite all the hiccups, the movie still provides a fun experience and brings new life to the horror genre. Determining if you like this movie will boil down to whether you will be able to throw reason out the window and just enjoy the experience.
Cregger sets the tone of the movie very nicely from the jump. The story begins with the main character (Tess) in a dark Detroit neighborhood. Rain is pouring down on her as she’s trying to get into her place that she seems to have rented. She is greeted at the door by a stranger, who introduces himself as Keith. This starts to play into a subtle fear that’s in all of us, being stranded in an unfamiliar place with a stranger. The trailers set up Keith to be a creepy individual that is not as innocent as he seems, but it turns out Keith was exactly as innocent as he seemed. Unfortunately though, he doesn’t make it past the 30 minute mark after “Mother” smashes his head into a wall in the tunnels underneath the house. Which begs an important question, why would Mother immediately kill Keith and choose to capture Tess? One could say she didn’t like males because of her fear of Frank that she displayed in the film. Although, she gave the other male, AJ (Long), every chance in the world. After Keith meets his brutal demise, the movie starts to have some issues. Act two begins promptly after the death of Keith, and it takes a complete turn into introducing a new character (AJ). The character of AJ is not the issue, it just seems to reset the viewer back to ground zero and takes away from all of the momentum that was built in the first act. Once you learn that Mother has no fear of coming out at night, one must wonder why she didn’t take anybody the first night they stayed there? Andre (the homeless man) mentioned that she comes out at night. Which leads us to the biggest plot hole of all, after all these years of people being abducted, has nobody had a family member realize they were missing? Seems very illogical that all of this could go unnoticed in this day in age. We can also assume that AJ has a cleaning crew that keeps the rental unit presentable while he’s away, and none of them ever found the underground tunnel? Our main characters found it almost immediately after entering the basement.
At the beginning of the film, Tess is seen declining calls from a guy named “Marvin”. They showed her declining to respond multiple times, but we never got clarification on the character.
Viewers might also wonder how Frank survived so long in the basement. He shoots himself first chance he gets so we can assume he is bed ridden. So if he’s unable to feed himself, and Mother won’t come near him, survival appears impossible.
In addition, if Mother’s whole goal was to nurture her “babies” why kill anyone at all? Plus, how is she so strong? All the years of inbreeding left her with the ability to survive a 50 foot fall and break through walls? Why had Andre never tried to go to the police? Why did Tess go back into the tunnels and try to handle the problem herself? Why did AJ and Tess climb up a watertower and put themselves in a dead end? So many questions as the movie comes to a close.
With all of that being said, Barbarian was definitely a unique experience and well worth the watch if you enjoy horror movies. It falls short of being a top tier movie with lots of things left to be desired. Although, maybe some of the charm of the film comes from the sheer absurdity of it all.
Reviewed by Cayden Sutphin & Trevan Via
3 thoughts on “Barbarian”
In a land of endless reviews, you two are bringing a fresh, educated, perspective to movie reviews- thank you! I especially appreciate you bringing up the dire state of trailers. I agree they have moved from building suspense, to deflating. This is one movie where i felt there is much on the cutting room floor- waiting for the Director’s Cut
This is a really good review!
Cayden and Trevan, I really appreciate this perspective! I thought Barbarian was a great thriller. I agree that this movie was a unique experience. The movie was enticing because the true storyline was hidden. This was a great review and I can’t wait to read more of them.